New strategy on AIDS likely this week

Kathmandu, January 20:

The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) is likely to endorse the National HIV/AIDS Strategy 2006-2011 within this week to address the need for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support.

Dr Rajendra Pant, acting director of the National Centre for AIDS and STD Control (NCASC) told this daily that the final draft has already been formulated and will be submitted to the Health Ministry tomorrow. “The Health Ministry will then endorse it in the next few days,” said Dr Pant.

Though the strategy should have been endorsed by July 2006, Dr Pant said that the delay would not affect the programmes, as they were meant to be started from this year.

The strategy should have been endorsed last week but it could not be done since all the key persons were out of station, an official at MoHP said. According to the draft, primary focus of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy will be on prevention and universal access to treatment, care and support. The response to HIV/AIDS will be rights based with specific focus on the rights of people affected by HIV/AIDS, it said.

The national response is largely focused on prevention services and links between prevention, treatment, care and support are insufficient. The new strategy has stressed on legislation and policy to ensure protection from discrimination against vulnerable groups and access to treatment facilities for the most-at-risk groups.

A fully functional, semi-autonomous multi-sectoral national authority with decentralised bodies and systems must be in place for the prevention of HIV/AIDS in the country. “A single transparent national AIDS account and resource mobilisation and monitoring mechanism should be in place and increase the skilled human resources to be made available in all districts, particularly in areas where they are most needed along with others,” the draft strategy states.

According to a review of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy 2002-2006, prevention programme reached almost 35 per cent of female sex workers (FSW), 8.6 per cent injecting drug users (IDUs), 5.4 per cent men having sex with men (MSMs) and less than 1 per cent migrant population. As indicated in the same report, only 3.1 per cent of FSWs, 5.2 per cent IDUs, 0.03 per cent migrants and 0.04 per cent MSMs received HIV testing.